The lymphatic system is part of the body’s circulation and immune system. Lymphedema occurs when there is damage or blockage in the lymphatic system, causing swelling (edema) in the affected area. Lymphedema usually affects an arm or leg, but it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the head and neck. Swelling usually develops slowly, over time. It may develop during treatment or it may start years after treatment.
Causes of Lymphedema
What you need to look out for
Lymphedema can be treated but results are best if done early. It is important to look out for the following symptoms and if present, to see your doctor or nurse to be assessed.
How it can be treated
Your doctor or nurse will first need to assess your condition and arrange for tests if necessary. They may then refer you to see a Physical or Occupational therapist, who will teach you exercises and self-massages, or recommend special compressive garments (e.g. stockings, arm sleeves) to help you manage the lymphedema.
Depending on your condition, your doctor may also refer you to a plastic surgeon, who will carry out further assessments to determine if you are a suitable candidate for surgical treatment. Surgical options include lympho-venous bypass, lymph node transfer and debulking surgery, depending on the severity of your lymphedema.
What you can do
The following are some of the do’s and don’ts to help you manage lymphedema and prevent further complications:
Ensure good skin care
When to call your cancer care team
Please inform your doctor or nurse as soon as you notice symptoms of lymphedema or if you develop the following symptoms that may indicate
worsening or complications of the condition.
If you have any questions regarding the above, please call the Cancer Helpline at
+65 6225 5655 or approach your doctor or nurse for further details.
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The above contents are made available as part of TEMASEK FOUNDATION-ACCESS (Accessible Cancer Care to Enable Support for Survivors) PROGRAMME, a holistic care programme to support cancer patients during their care and recovery journey.
The contents have been approved by the Cancer Education Information Service, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), for people with cancer and their families and caregivers. However, this information serves only as a guide and should not be used as a substitute for medical diagnosis, treatment or advice. For specific medical conditions, please seek expert medical advice from your healthcare team.
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